Sunday’s co-featured Opens at Saratoga Casino Hotel saw a familiar face and an Open newbie record victories. Crockets Cullen N (Christian Cullen) is the defending Pacer of the Year at the track and when he won the season’s first Open Pace in February, it was the tenth consecutive victory in the local Open for the standout Larry Stalbaum trainee. After some lackluster tries prior to the quarantine layoff, Crockets Cullen N made his return last Sunday afternoon (June 21) but faded on the front end before finishing fifth. This week, the classy veteran drew the rail for his try in the $8,500 co-feature and Stalbaum got a pocket trip for him behind the race’s favorite Hudson Phil (Shawn Gray). Hudson Phil, who finished second in the Pacer of the Year vote in ’19 to Crockets Cullen N, again finished as the runner-up to him once again on Sunday as he got reeled-in in the final eighth of a mile. Crockets Cullen N got up to win in 1:52.3. Paying $5.10 to win on Sunday, Crockets Cullen N led an exacta with Hudson Phil second that returned $9.90. Deetzy (Jay Randall) earned the show spot and rounded out a $42.80 trifecta.
The $8,500 Open Trot went to Gemologist (Cantab Hall) on Sunday as he went coast-to-coast for his owner/trainer/driver Jordan Derue. Gemologist has been competitive in the Opens at the Spa from time to time but had yet to win one heading into Sunday’s try in which he started from post four. Derue marched the five year old out to the early lead and despite moving quickly to the quarter in 27.4, Gemologist had plenty left in the tank to complete a wire-to-wire score in 1:56.4. Unlike Crockets Cullen N who has been a winning machine in local Opens, Gemologist’s victory was the first of his career in the local feature. The 6-5 betting favorite paid $4.40 to win and led an exacta and triple with Volare (Claude Huckabone III) second and Waiting On A Woman (Phil Fluet) third that returned $28.20 and $109.50, respectively.
Live racing resumes on Thursday afternoon at Saratoga with a 12 Noon start to the matinee.
Photo: Melissa Simser-Iovino